Monday, January 30, 2012

A Dance of Dragons

Each year, the largest[citation needed] human migration takes place for the Chinese New Year as the entire labor force of the east coast megalopolis joins their families in the west. Ticket prices sky rocket and sell out for the most important day of the year. The trains are overbooked until it is absolutely stuffed to the point that passengers pack adult diapers. It is impossible to make it past the wall of people to the bathroom, and some people travel over 40 hours!

Mom, I love you, but sorry, I wouldn't stand for 40 hours with poop weighing down my diaper to visit you.

The fireworks made their appearance about 4 days before the holiday, shortly after fireworks vendors lined the streets of Dali. As I'm writing this, 3 days after the holiday, I can hear the deep pop! pop! pop! of fireworks going off in the distance every 5 seconds.

These fireworks are not the impressive kind seen back home with dazzling colors and impressive shapes. Here, louder = better. The products are so incredibly loud, powerful, unreliable, and illegal back home. They are also ridiculously cheap. One vendor was selling Osama bin Laden fireworks. I watched a little girl set his turban on fire and then his head rocketed off and exploded.

Ian and Lewis walking through town as unbelievably loud firecrackers go off from every direction. Notice the people in the background setting off fireworks right next to a firework vendor's table. This is common.

The word "safety" is not in China's lexicon. Drunk people were shooting bottle rockets and roman candles in the middle of crowds and traffic, often at the crowd and traffic. I witnessed children as young as 2 setting off firecrackers with lighters, some of which exploded fractions of a second after they were tossed. Rockets and burning debris rained down on the rooftops and my face.

Possibly the most scarey part is that many of these fireworks malfunctioned. If you're lucky, you just got a dud, but sometimes they would fail spectacularly. I saw a bottle rocket shoot sideways, over the guy's shoulder, and right over a firework vendor's table.

It's a miracle China hasn't burned to the ground.

A veritable fire-bender.

A car dodging some fireworks.
My friends and I start out the evening by getting wine and beer and walking Dali as it got progressively more insane. The feelings of guilt for drinking $3 wine straight from the bottle in public (think of the children!) was soon eroded by the booze. I couldn't help but feel I was doing something illicit, even though there are no public intoxication or open container laws in China, and a large amount of drunk Chinese were shooting bottle rockets at each other.

The posse.

Huge ribbons of fire crackers were going off everywhere.


Talking to Cris as I work on bottle #2. Between the fireworks and my ear plugs, I could barely hear people.

I didn't notice this happening as I was walking out of the bar.

The scared shit-less guy in the pink hat is me. Notice all the debris from fireworks-- it isn't even midnight yet!

At the strike of midnight, the city erupted. Every person in the city poured outside with firecrackers, roman candles, and rockets and filled the sky with fire. Even with my earplugs in I had to cover my ears and squint as I walked through the thick wall of smoke and debris. The cute German girl I was crushing on gave me a kiss and I made this face :D

Pew! Pew!

I found out the morning after that I updated my Facebook status the previous night. I shouldn't be allowed on the Internet when I'm drunk.
I woke up the next day still drunk. I cleared all the mucus our of my throat and sinuses, which was black from the night before. I walked into town to eat and heard music off in the distance, which turned out to be a giant parade. The local Bai minorities were out in traditional clothes and doing dragon dances.

The dragons were "manned" either by women or men.

A dance of dragons.

The rasta dragon.

Minority women dancing in unision using fans.

Note: I had to decide between joining the celebration and documenting it, so naturally I left my camera and home and got wasted. The pictures were courtesy of Trygve from Wander Sage and Andres from 2sporks1cup. They also wrote a blog post about their Chinese New Year's in Dali.


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